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In this second installment in a three part series on safety culture in the workplace, we look at the concept of encouraging safe behaviors through employee engagement. Read Part One - Safety Culture: Who Is Getting Your Safety Message 

Safety is a Team Win

What message is your organization sending to employees about its commitment to safety?

Let’s begin with the familiar “days without an injury” statistic. The numbers speak for themselves. They may even be posted in the form of a sign for everyone at work to see. But they only tell part of the story.

We know workplace safety education and training programs positively affect employee safety. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, more than 13 people in the United States died each day as result of performing their jobs. The National Safety Council goes a step further by claiming that each of those deaths was preventable. So where do things go off track?

All the safety measures in the world are of little benefit if they are not followed. Motivating employees to use the safety protocols they've learned is therefore essential. That’s where engagement comes in. A standard dictionary definition of “engagement” is “an emotional involvement or commitment.”

The “Four Pillars of Safety,” a white paper from the Performance Improvement Council, offers a number of suggestions for recognizing employee contributions to safety and doing so in engaging ways. (“Engagement,” incidentally, is one of those four pillars, along with” recognition,” “communications” and “measurement.”)

One of those is to offer employee wellness programs. These can be as simple as encouraging employees to improve their health together and offering incentives and rewards for top achievers. Such programs have been a feature of the corporate landscape for over a decade, and according to a recent State of the Industry Survey conducted by Virgin Pulse, they are among the top priorities for responding employers in 2017. That survey, which gathered data from 600 human resources and benefits officers at global organizations, also found that those companies that invest in wellness and engagement can realize measurable improvements in business performance. Seventy-eight percent of respondents indicated employee well-being is a critical part of their business plans, while 74 percent of those with comprehensive wellness programs said their employee satisfaction has increased.

According to the NSC, employers who demonstrate that they care about the safety of their employees can see fewer injuries along with better morale, increased productivity and lower costs.

Now, back to the “days without an injury” sign. While signs and placards are good visual reminders, they tend to be passive, impersonal and monolithic. Most people tend to appreciate at least occasional face-to-face feedback and "tangible" rewards. According to the Performance Improvement Council, surveys that seek to determine why employees left a job consistently find "lack of recognition" and "compensation” as the top two reasons. Recognizing achievements and safe behaviors as they happen or soon after tells employees they are appreciated for being safe and for ensuring they keep a safe work environment.

And when all employees take ownership of their roles in safety at work, it becomes, as it should be, a team effort. Go team!

References:
1. Every Worker Deserves to Make it Home Safe from Work—Every Day, http://www.nsc.org/learn/pages/safety-at-work.aspx?var=mnd
2. Performance Improvement Council, “The Four Pillars of Safety,” white paper March 2014, http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.incentivemarketing.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/Pillar-of-Safety_Mar2014_wMb.pdf?hhSearchTerms=%22Four+and+Pillars+and+Safety+and+-+and+Performance+and+Improveme%22
3. State of the Industry Survey Report 2017, http://community.virginpulse.com/state-of-the-industry-2017-wc

Nearly half of all adult asthma cases – 48 percent – might be related to work – and therefore could be preventable. That’s according to a study published in December in the CDC’s MMWR, which found that as many as 2.7 million U.S. workers might have asthma caused by or exacerbated by workplace conditions.

The study used data from the 2006–2007 adult Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Asthma Call-back Survey (ACBS) to quantify potential occupationally-associated asthma cases and to identify the workers most at risk, by industry and state. Among the five occupations with the highest current asthma prevalence, office and administrative support was identified in 16 of the 21 states, health care practitioners and technical in 15 states, and sales and related in 13 states.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6547a1.htm?s_cid=mm6547a1_w

 

Tagged in: CDC MMWR

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In this 3-part series, we’ll look at the concept of safety culture in the workplace and how your organization can leverage its commitment to safety to attract and keep talent in a competitive market.

Who is Getting Your Safety Message?

Safety is a fundamental part of every culture and has been from at least the dawn of recorded history. It is no great stretch to posit that our continued existence as a species owes at least something to our ancestors’ knowledge on what to do and what to avoid in order to live a long life and to have been able transmit that information from generation to generation.

It’s only been in the past few decades, however, that the term “safety culture” has entered into the lexicon. According to OSHA, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.”

So far so good. Based on that definition, it’s clear that every organization has a safety culture. We know that cultivating a culture of safety is an ongoing, organic process, and not one that can always be readily quantified. After all, while we could spot check people’s knowledge of a particular process or job routine, how do we accurately measure their attitudes, beliefs and values with respect to safety?

Perhaps the better question to ask: Is our safety culture as effective as it could be?

A robust safety culture might be easier to define by considering clear-cut examples of what it isn’t.

When a safety practice is successful, such as when the selection of the proper personal protective equipment for a specific task is accompanied by training an employee on its proper use, the benefit is typically identified and appreciated within the organization. But it might not necessarily become known to the “outside world.”

Conversely, asking an employee to perform a task with inadequate safety equipment would likely be viewed by anyone inside or outside that organization as a reflection of a poor safety culture. And since a cultural universal is that bad news travels fast, we can all read about apparent lapses in safety on the job daily in the news media, opinions posted on social media and job boards from employees (and former employees), and even on OSHA’s official website.

What messages is your organization sending about its safety culture?

Tagged in: OSHA safety culture

Pneumoconiosis among coal workers, also commonly known as “black lung disease,” has resurfaced in the U.S. in “alarming” numbers, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The disabling, often fatal occupational disease is caused by overexposure to respirable coal mine dust.

A report in a recent CDC MMWR bulletin describes a cluster of 60 cases of PMF identified in current and former coal miners at a single eastern Kentucky radiology practice from January 2015 through August 2016. This cluster was not found through the national surveillance program. That’s something the report’s authors say makes an argument for improved surveillance to promptly identify the early stages of the disease and halt its progression to PMF.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6549a1.htm?s_cid=mm6549a1_w

Tagged in: CDC NIOSH

Those words, issued as part of a statement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on the results of the most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, reflect a stark reality.

Accidents will happen, of course, but many factors that affect safety in the workplace are within our control.

When it recently released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injury data for fiscal 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that 4,836 fatal workplace injuries occurred that year. Though up only slightly from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014, it was the highest number since 2008, when there were 5,214 fatal occupational injuries. Other sobering standouts were that there were 903 deaths among Latino workers – the most in any year since 2007, when there 937 fatalities. Road fatalities were up 9 percent from 2014.

Deaths listed as resulting from exposures to electricity dropped in 2015, but fatalities stemming from exposure to temperature extremes rose. Occupational deaths from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol, unintentional overdose, went up 45 percent in 2015 to 165. There were 136 workers who died in incidents associated with confined spaces in 2015.

Falls to a lower level accounted for 81 percent of all fatal falls. Of the cases where the height of the fall was known, more than 40 percent happened at heights of 15 feet or lower. Fatal falls to a lower level accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015.

In the full statement on those data, Perez said that “These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires. We have a moral responsibility to make sure that workers who showed up to work today are still alive to punch the clock tomorrow. The fact is, we know how to prevent these deaths. The U.S. Department of Labor is – and will always be – committed to working with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to improve safety and health in our nation’s workplaces. This effort is essential to ensuring that no more workers are taken unnecessarily from their families."

It’s worth noting that BLS said the release is the first time that the CFOI has published a single annual release without revisions, adding this will be the only release for 2015 CFOI data. The agency said a similar schedule will be followed in subsequent years, meaning there will be no August or September preliminary releases.

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